Thursday, Jan. 26, marks an important moment for North Texas. It’s when community nonprofits and organizers—led by Housing Forward—will conduct this year’s Point-in-Time Homeless (PIT) Count.
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas works in partnership with Housing Forward and other community organizations to prevent homelessness and support our neighbors experiencing homelessness. Our focus on housing stability is foundational to our mission of improving access to education, income and health, because all North Texans need a stable home environment in order to thrive in these three interconnected areas.
By regularly counting the unhoused neighbors in our community, Housing Forward (formerly Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance) collects vital data on a population that can be difficult to quantify. These insights allow us to understand the extent of homelessness in North Texas, factors that are impacting current homelessness rates and the effectiveness of programs that seek to end homelessness.
Of course, manually counting thousands of individuals spread across Dallas and Collin counties requires a community-wide effort. If you’d like to volunteer to join the Jan. 26 PIT Count, click here to register. Or, read on to learn more about the state of homelessness in North Texas, how United Way of Metropolitan Dallas works with partners and supporters to promote housing stability and some of the ways you can improve housing in our region.
The most recent PIT Count—conducted in February 2022—found that on any given night there are 4,410 individuals experiencing homelessness in Dallas and Collin counties (almost 4,000 in Dallas County and a little more than 400 in Collin County). This was the lowest count since 2019. According to Housing Forward, community programs to prevent homelessness and serve our neighbors who are already unhoused are making a true difference.
Unfortunately, following the decline in homelessness over last few years, 2022 saw an uptick in people experiencing homelessness, due to several factors. Ashley Brundage is the executive director of housing stability and senior vice president of community impact at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, as well as board chair of the All Neighbors Coalition. She says the current economic conditions mean more North Texans are experiencing housing insecurity.
“With rising housing costs, inflation and a pending recession, we have seen the number of persons experiencing homelessness in our community on the rise,” she explains.
But community organizations are able to respond to that increase more efficiently than ever before. “The good news is that we are rehousing folks 35% faster than we did two years ago,” she adds.
According to Brundage, the PIT Count is actually one of the reasons we’re seeing homelessness decline.
“Part of our ability to track this success comes from the data we receive through the Point-in-Time Count,” she says. “It helps local communities and the nation understand the extent of homelessness, changing trends, and the measure of our success in making homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring.”
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas addresses homelessness by working with a variety of community partners to provide a continuum of services. Our goal is to improve housing stability for North Texas families while also advocating for more affordable housing.
One successful prevention initiative was the Dallas Rental Assistance Collaborative (DRAC), which provided rental and utility assistance so people could stay in their homes during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As tens of thousands of our neighbors lost their income and fell ill, our region faced an eviction crisis. DRAC enabled us to quickly and efficiently distribute funds to the people who needed them most, without delay. Working with more than a dozen grassroots organizations that are trusted members of their communities, we distributed nearly $30.4 million in rent and utility assistance, serving 7,173 households and preventing countless individuals and families from falling into homelessness.
More recently, we’ve worked with a variety of partners to launch the Targeted Eviction Prevention Program (TEPP), an innovative pilot program that provides direct cash payments and key resources to 500 families on the verge of eviction. TEPP aims to help families stabilize their lives to prevent mid-year school moves, which can be highly disruptive to a child’s learning. In the first year of the program, United Way and our TEPP partners have provided $1.5 million in direct cash payments to participants, enabling North Texans to do things like pay bills, purchase school supplies and help out family members.
Interested in joining our work to end homelessness in North Texas? Right now one of the most important ways you can be part of the change is to volunteer for the Jan. 26 Point-in-Time Homeless Count.
Working with other volunteers, you’ll seek out unhoused individuals and invite them to take a brief survey, as well as distribute care packages. Housing Forward organizers provide volunteers with everything they need. And you’ll walk away knowing you made a true difference.
As Brundage explains, volunteering with the count can be a transformative experience.
“Volunteering to help with the Point-in-Time Count will change your perspective on who experiences homelessness and why,” she says. “Every unique person comes with their own unique story about how they ended up sleeping on the streets. Just like how every teen should work in a customer service job to learn how to treat people with respect; I truly believe every adult should be required to volunteer for the PIT Count to embrace the humanness in our neighbors living on the streets.”
Interested in joining us for this year’s PIT Count? To learn more and to sign up, visit our volunteer page.
If you’re interested in working with us to improve housing stability in our community, volunteering with the PIT Count is just the beginning. Here are three other ways to get involved right now:
Together, we can ensure all North Texans have the opportunity and access to achieve housing stability. Click below to make an investment in the future of our community today.